Dr. Ashley Stroupe, a driver for the MER Mars rovers, came, so we all went to Mr. Dobson’s room to hear her speak. Mr. Dobson had given us pizza and soda to eat during her presentation.
At the beginning of her presentation, she decided to ask us a special question because we all did robotics. She asked, “What makes a robot a robot?” Some of our responses were, “They never work,” “They have programming,” and “They have electronics.” She then continued to the rest of her presentation.
She talked about some of the things the MER rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have done. She mentioned that they were intended as 3 month missions, but Spirit went 6 years and Opportunity is still going after 10 years. She also brought up how she drove the rover. Because there is a several minute long delay before information can be transmitted between Earth and Mars, the Mars rovers can not be driven in a TeleOp fashion. Everything they did was autonomous. They have an interface to drive the rover in where they give the rover a path, and the rover will drive on that path. On the way, if the path goes over an obstacle, the robot will drive around the obstacle without being asked to by the drivers. They can also drive the rover by looking at pictures the rover takes and selecting point to which the rover will drive.
The MER rovers take pictures in a non-standard way. Because the scientists want as high resolution pictures as possible, the cameras take one picture where only data for red colors is taken, a blue picture is taken, and a green picture is taken. Because not much movement occurs on the Martian surface, there will not be too much difference, though she showed us a picture where a dust devil was in frame and the red photo and the green photo caught it in different places.
At the end of her presentation, she talked about her education. She majored in astronomy and went to graduate school to study paleoanthropology. She found that it was difficult to get funding for the study of ancient humans, so she decided to switch to robotics, in which she got her Ph.D. We enjoyed having Dr. Stroupe come.
We had a simple goal for this meeting: practice. When Mr. Porter came with the robot, Hunter and Fletcher got to work trying to connect the robot to a wifi, but did not succeed. Farr and Bugert from the Deadbolts, team 4153, tried also, but came to similar results. Both the Deadbolts and we ended up just driving the robot with a wired connection.
We found that we could easily get six rings on the top row like so:
The Deadbolts also got their rings on like this:
We found that what the Deadbolts were doing was very good. We practiced our end game on them (as their robot was light — 11 lbs rather than the 20.9 that had broken our scissor lift previously)
Because of their lightness and ring scoring abilities and our IR capabilities, end game ability, and ring scoring abilities, the Deadbolts would be a serious consideration for us if we were a chooser in final alliance selection.
We started the day by working on the IR autonomous. Fletcher had already done some work on it, though the surface he had done the testing was quiet slippery and all the work he had done had to be redone. The calibration was done in a system of checking and adjusting where Fletcher would run the autonomous and Evan or Hunter would tell him how off of the target it was. Fletcher would then change the code based on their observations. One challenged we faced in this is robot placement. Some inaccuracies in robot placement, which was 21″ from the left wall [depicted] could cause the autonomous to fail. To lessen this problem, we made a stick that is 21″ in length.
We applied our check and adjust system to each of the three paths that could be taken. The rightmost path was particularly difficult because unlike the other two cases, it had three stages rather than two. The other two went forward for a little bit, turned and went forward again and put the ring on. The dextral path went forward a small amount, turned 90 degrees, went forward an amount, turned, went forward again, and put the ring on. While working on the right path, we were encountering problems with the robot being slow, which degraded the ability of our autonomouses, so we changed the batteries and fixed this problem. This all took from about 11:00 to 4:00 with lunch (where the pizza man drew a robot for us on the box!).
Once we finished the autonomous, we moved on to driver practice. In it, we found that the ideal place for the robot to rotate to put itself in the ideal place to get the ring is between the mechanism for moving the hand left and right and the tube that holds the hand on. We also found that if when removing a ring from a dispenser or when putting a ring on a peg we use the device to move the hand vertically to grab the ring or to let go of the ring (this is as apposed to doing this with the scissor lift).
Once driver practice was done, we started playing with the fork lift. We lowered the fork and put a skateboard, a spool of wire, a drill, and a bottle of Pepsi on it and lifted it, first with the peg assist, then after we got too high for the peg assist, just with the scissor. Sadly, this put too much strain on the scissor lift and bent several of the pieces on the lower portion and bent one in particular quiet badly in three place. Luckily, Evan was able too take the robot hame after this and replace the sections of the scissor lift with steel.
One of the awards you can earn in FIRST is the promote award. The official description is here, but what you do to earn the award is make a PSA for FIRST that follows a prompt, this year “What I’ll carry with me from FIRST…” Here is our video: